Whether you're looking to kick-start your new year with weight loss, or you're a fitness buff trying out various workout programs to see how effective they are, you've probably heard of one of the new trends circulating throughout 2020 and into 2021. The challenge is called 75 Hard, and there's a lot to dig into discussing it.
What is 75 Hard?
75 Hard, also known as the #75HardChallenge, is a workout program circulating through social media, though it seems to have gotten its start on TikTok, of all places. Except, it's kind of not. It's a workout program in that it's based on working out, but, according to the creator:
Of course, all of the workout creators say something like this. It's more than just a workout, it's a state of mind! It's an attitude! It's a way to change your life!
The truth is, it's a workout program that is, as the name implies, hard. If you can tough it out and make it through, the theory goes, you'll have transformed your mindset and your attitude, as well as your body.
There's some truth to the claim. The 75 Hard challenge lasts for 75 days. It takes, on average, 66 days to form a new habit and have it become automatic behavior. Picking up anything new and keeping it going for two and a half months will build a habit and a change to your lifestyle.
The 75 Hard website is pretty typical for a workout challenge. It goes into the "this is more than just a workout" spiel, then talks about the self-doubt, lack of motivation, and mental struggle the author has gone through, to sympathize with their audience. (Yes, we've all been there; pandemic, quarantine, depression, they're all at an all-time high.) Then, of course, they go into how this program changed their life, and how they want to share it with you so you can change yours as well. This is accompanied by social proof (a marketing psychology concept) and a bunch of Instagram photos of before-and-after fitness transformations.
It's all basic stuff, you can write ad copy like this from a template if you want.
So, what is the 75 Hard challenge, specifically?
- No alcohol and no "cheat meals", though you determine what your diet is, so the definition varies.
- Two 45-minute workouts a day, every day, for 75 days straight. One of these workouts should be outdoors.
- Drink 1 gallon (4 liters) of water every day.
- Read 10 pages of a book, usually about personal growth.
- Take a 5-minute cold shower before working out.
- Take daily progress pictures.
- Perform random acts of kindness.
- No tweaks, changes, or substitutions. Breaking a rule means starting over from day 1.
Here's where we can agree that this isn't a fitness program because there's no actual workout program included. You're free to choose your own workouts, diet, and restrictions. That alone is a lot more than some people want to do and can lead to unbalanced workouts, but the problems with 75 Hard run deeper.
The Problem with 75 Hard
75 Hard has a few problems. In fact, nearly every rule has an issue with it.
"No alcohol" is a good rule, we have no problems there. Alcohol is a poison and can lead to all manner of health problems, and it's a carb, which leads to a lot of weight gain.
Being able to determine your own diet can be beneficial since it gives you the flexibility to follow the program whether you're on Keto, a Vegan diet, or something else. Unfortunately, the lack of specificity means it's difficult to choose a real meal plan and stick with it.
2x 45-minute workouts a day is… intense. It's a lot more than most people do. Moreover, there's one major problem with it, which you might recognize if you've studied fitness at all. There're no rest days! You're constantly working out, constantly tearing down your body, and never giving it time to recover. This can lead to long-term muscle and organ damage, particularly if your chosen workouts are vigorous events like CrossFit or heavy weightlifting.
Drinking a gallon of water every day is an admirable goal – most adults are chronically dehydrated, and drinking water instead of a sugary beverage is good – but it's 2x what is generally recommended for you to drink in a day, and can be very difficult to actually handle.
Daily progress pictures can be good, in the right situation, but they can also cause body dysmorphia and exacerbate mental health issues, especially if you aren't seeing immediate progress as you would expect.
The other rules are basically fine. A cold shower is alright, and can both give you energy and stimulate hormone production. Random acts of kindness are great to encourage, though doing anything during the pandemic is tough. There's no problem with encouraging reading, either.
The biggest strike against the whole program, though, is that there's no science behind it. The man who made it is not a dietician, nutritionist, trainer, therapist, or anyone else with any educational background to back up his program. He's a marketer, using this program to market mental health (and his merchandise store). More importantly, he's using TikTok to spread it, and TikTok is primarily used by teens who might not know any better and who might hurt themselves by trying a challenge that is too much for them. And, of course, if and when you fail, you end up deeper in depression for having failed.
You can read a more detailed rundown of the issues with 75 Hard all over the place. Here are some options for further reading:
- Why the 75 Hard Challenge Could Have Dangerous Consequences – Men's Health
- 75 Hard is the Challenge You Don't Want to Accept – Abby Langer Nutrition
- 5 Legit Reasons You Should Avoid the 75 Hard Challenge – Sorey Fitness
You get the idea.
We're not a fan of the 75 Hard challenge as the rules are written. There are, however, some good points buried in the marketing speak and aggressive bro-culture lingo they throw around. That's why what we'll actually recommend is a series of alternatives. Pick one that fits your own goals, and don't forget that forgiveness is part of mental health.
1. Tweaked 75 Hard by Hoyles Fitness
Steve Hoyles is a UK-based fitness trainer who wanted to do the 75 Hard challenge, but recognized that some of the restrictions are simply nonsense for a working adult. He has loosened the rules, adapting them for someone with a life that includes work, family, and social occasions.
He loosens the dietary restrictions by simply banning alcohol outside of social events, and says nothing about cheat meals. This is an overall healthier outlook; simply follow a diet and treat your body right.
He says to train every day for 75 days straight, but specifies that "active recovery counts." This is critically important to avoid injury. Likewise, he does away with the goofy "one workout must be outside" rule. Who wants to have to do a daily workout in the snow, in 100-degree heat, or in the rain?
He lightens the load on water consumption by setting it to 3 liters rather than 4, which is a more reasonable water intake. It's still more than is usually recommended, but that's fine in a fitness context, where you'll likely be sweating a lot of it right back out. If you're looking to enhance your workouts and get sweating, even more, be sure to check out our Quema Lonja Gel!
He keeps the reading and progress photos requirements, but those you can take or leave, to be honest. And finally, he adds on completing a full 10,000 steps per day. Staying active even at a baseline is always good.
2. 75 Easy
No link for this one, but it's primarily because we've synthesized several different ideas to make this one ourselves. 75 Hard is, well, hard, and a lot of the rules aren't really impactful or can be dangerous. So, here's one that is toned down and better for beginners.
- Start or continue a diet plan. It doesn't really matter which one, so adapt it to your specific dietary needs.
- Do one 45–60-minute workout every day. A "workout" can be a simple walk, for active recovery. Don't injure yourself!
- Drink at least three liters of water each day.
That's it! Anything else you want to add, go right ahead. Unlike 75 Hard, we don't care if you adapt it or "break" the rules. Adapt them to your life, challenge yourself, but don't set an impossible goal. If you want to read, read. If you want to meditate, do that instead. If you want to add supplements to the list, go for it. You do you.
BBG is Bikini Body Guides and is a series of fitness programs developed by the Australian fitness trainer Kayla Itsines. Her workouts are about a half-hour long and are targeted towards your specific fitness level and goals. It's not a "challenge" and it's not related to 75 Hard at all, but it's honestly probably better for most of our readers not to buy into the bro culture and aggressive swagger that the deprivation, no-mistakes-allowed, hypermasculine angle 75 Hard challenge represents.
The downside to this plan is that it's a subscription model, though it only costs $20 per month. That's more than a gym membership, but it's doable virtually anywhere. One of the things we like most about BBG is just that there's a version of the workouts that are doable with zero equipment at all. Bodyweight exercises, cardio, and general fitness are achievable without needing gym equipment, and that's excellent, especially for those of us who don't have the budget or the space for equipment.
4. 31 Modified
This is a modified version of the 75 Hard foundations, cut in half and aimed to be done in a month. Christina Quaterman decided to develop this to accompany a Whole 30 challenge the following month, so it's more focused on exercise than on diet.
The 31-day choice was because she chose December as her month to do the challenge; you can pick any month, or longer, and just extend the rules as long as you wish. The rules are:
- Do one 45-minute workout every day. This is a lot more doable for a single month than for two and a half and with less risk of injury.
- Drink 32 oz. of water. This is a good, reasonable goal, though you may surpass it with your workouts.
- Read 15 pages per day. Again, reading is good.
- Take a progress photo every day. As long as you're not going dysmorphic, this is fine.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Intermittent Fasting. We love IF and encourage you to choose a pattern that works for you.
That's basically it! Achievable, extendable, and much more reasonable.
5. Personal SMART Goals
SMART is an acronym. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. It's used all over in business and elsewhere, and it can apply just as well to fitness. As we're so fond of saying, everyone is different, and your body will react differently to different encouragement. Set goals that work for you, not for anyone else.
Keep them specific, whether it's a specific length of workout every day, a specific number of workouts per week, a specific number of calories cut each week, or a specific weight loss goal you reverse-engineer into those attributes.
Keep them measurable, whether that means counting calories, monitoring weight, or just tracking activity levels every day.
Keep them attainable. Don't challenge yourself to lose 100 lbs. in two weeks or anything else that is physically or mentally impossible.
Keep them relevant. A cold shower, a bit of reading, and progress photos aren't relevant to a fitness program, to use a completely random example.
Keep them time-bound. Give yourself a limit, a goal to attain, whether it's 30 days or 75.
By setting your own goals, you're setting yourself up for success, rather than an ongoing struggle against failure.